Harpenden Red Cross Centre 1988 – 2018

Just five years after this exhibition, the Harpenden branch closed. And this box, outside 5 High Street, disappeared.

The following account gives a resume of the history of Harpenden Centre from our 50th Anniversary in 1988 until its closure in 2018. The text continues on from our Golden Anniversary book published locally in 1988 (ISBN 0 9506721 1 4) and describes our service for the following 30 years. 

Our 50th Anniversary

Our Golden Anniversary was celebrated with a party at Rothamsted Conference Centre in June 1988 to which all Centre members were invited, plus our Hertfordshire Red Cross President, and Hertfordshire Red Cross Director. Following the welcome and short speeches of introduction, the members chatted, viewed the exhibition showing the history of Harpenden Red Cross, and enjoyed a buffet lunch.

A less military image

The policy of British Red Cross since 1975 had been to show a less military image of the Society following World War II. Now, Herts 48 was renamed Harpenden Centre with a Centre Organiser rather than a Commandant. The term VAD was no longer used and all our 219 volunteers who gave Red Cross service were called Members, some giving service in more than one group. The Centre was divided into 7 Groups, each with its own Group Leader: Combined First Aid and Nursing, Youth, and Therapeutic Beauty Care whose members all wore official uniform ordered from County HQ, plus Medical Loan, Meals on Wheels, Transport and Escort, and Fundraising. A local GP gave his services as Centre Medical Officer, examining First Aid each year and giving occasional talks. The Centre had 3 Nursing Officers amongst its membership who all gave active service within the Centre.

First Aid Group

This was part of the Combined Group with Nursing until 2002.


The 1980s introduced several new training courses, a manual illustrated in colour, and the use of more practical work and visual aids to increase our skills. In 2003 British Red Cross made the decision to encourage more of the public and those in the workplace to undergo First Aid training. A range of new courses was introduced from the 2 hour ‘Save a Life’ to the 14 week Standard First Aid course and week long ‘First Aid at Work’ course. Increased practical experience of dealing with a variety of casualties in simulated scenarios was now included, with these being formally assessed by trainers. We were fortunate to have a variety of up-to-date Adult, Junior and Baby Resusci-Annies donated by local organisations, and a donated video player for our training videos supplied by Hertford HQ. In 2010 we trained 923 members of the public and 443 in schools.

The trainers themselves attended residential training, during which they gained City and Guilds certificates in teaching and assessing skills towards achieving NVQ qualifications. Trainers’ teaching was monitored every 2 years to maintain standards. Power point presentations supplied by National HQ to Centres, and regular updating at Hertford HQ kept members up to date with theory and practical training

Courses Held

  • SAVE A LIFE: a 2 hour course covering key life-saving skills including Recovery Position and CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) for members of the public, and was a useful “taster” with opportunity for practice. Courses were sometimes specially requested and tailored to the needs, ages or interests of a group, and we run courses for a sports club, shop, Doctors’ surgery staff, teachers, office staff, social organisations, and for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, as well as Guides, Scouts, Brownies and Cubs. A challenge was a course run for Asian ladies from Luton who spoke no English – fortunately, First Aid is practical and much can be taught by demonstration. Special sessions were run regularly on baby Resus for Mums attending Post Natal Clinic.
  • EMERGENCY LIFE SUPPORT: a 4 hour course including Recovery Position, CPR, significant blood loss and Shock, Stroke, Heart Attack and Burns and Scalds. It allowed more time for practice and asking questions than the Save a Life course.
  • PRACTICAL FIRST AID: a 14 hour course including the key life-saving skills, and the knowledge and treatment of a wide range of emergency situations and common medical conditions. A more detailed course, with the opportunity to discuss the injuries and illnesses and their treatment, and also to practice First Aid skills in simulated scenarios.
  • STANDARD FIRST AID COURSE: a 28 hour course taken by Red Cross Event First Aiders every 3 years, with assessments annually. It covered incident management and all major injuries and medical conditions, and later on also AED (automated external defibrillation). The First Aider has to be competent in a full range of assessed practical scenarios.
  • FIRST AID AWARENESS COURSE : this was sponsored by The Lions Club, and we ran the 2 hour course for Year 6 pupils in 16 local Primary Schools for some years. The children learned and practised the Recovery Position and CPR, and were shown how to deal with cuts and bleeding. Usually in a class of about 30, the 10 year old boys and girls were enthusiastic and receptive. These were rewarding sessions as we were able to pass on First Aid skills to about 450 local young children each year.
  • LOOKING AFTER OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN: a 12 week course, was the first to start in Hertfordshire. It was held after school in the Old Library at St George’s School, Harpenden. Organised by one of the parents, two Red Cross First Aiders gave the instruction and supervised practical. The course was popular with both boys and girls aged 14 years or over, always full, with a final practical examination. As well as First Aid, sessions included Accident Prevention, Childhood Illnesses, and skills for coping with possible incidents in the home while babysitting. The Head Master usually attended the presentation of certificates at the end, and the qualification valued by parents and the ‘babysitter’.

First Aid Duties at Events

These continued to be many and varied, such as at

  • stately homesHatfield House Craft Fairs, Luton Hoo – mountain bike trials for “Which”, Knebworth House Pop Festivals and Althorp House, and on duty at a bridge over the M1 as Princess Diana’s cortege was driven up to Althorp.
  • large events: Eric Morecombe’s Funeral when we were on duty on Church Green and in the Churchyard (and saw the arrival of Ronnie Barker & Ronnie Corbett, Elton John, Des O’Connor, Glenda Jackson and Harry Seacombe), Festival Hall concerts until 1990, Easter Pilgrimages in St Albans, Kimpton 3 day May Festival, Rothamsted Open Days, Women’s Institute AGMs, Harpenden Light Operatic productions in the Public Hall (popular, as we enjoyed the shows as well!), plus the annual Harpenden Carnival, Highland Gathering, and Classics on the Common.
  • country shows: the Herts Show, Flamstead Pony Club event, Horse Trials at the Show Ground, Blue Cross Dog Show, and Pipers Lane Horse events.
  • sports events: Rugby Pub 7s which were always our busiest, and sometimes serious injuries occurred, Fun Runs, Football matches, and Celebrity golf and cricket matches.
  • annual local events: School Fetes, Scout Bonfires, Christingle Services, Choral concerts, ‘Music in the Park’ afternoons, Teddy Bears’ Picnics, plus a YWAM event, St Albans Car Boot Sale – and no doubt some others!

Our busiest year

1993 was probably our busiest year when our 22 First Aid trained members attended over 80 events, giving over 3,000 hours of First Aid service. Our caravan was towed out to events each summer weekend, and was a well used and much appreciated facility with its easily available storage space for equipment, a hand washing area, and the privacy it gave while giving treatment. We were most grateful to Hammonds End Farm to be able to store it in one of their barns during the winter. The caravan was sold for £100 in 2012 as a modern, fully equipped Red Cross ambulance was now available from County HQ when attending large events. As responsibility for booking Event First Aid cover was taken over at HQ level, the number of duties we attended reduced. By 2018 St Albans District Council was employing its own private company, Pro Medics Ltd for all events on Council property and we therefore no longer attended those on Harpenden Common, in Rothamsted Park or Lydekker Park.

Emergency Response – Care in Crisis”

Practical Training

Throughout the years, volunteers have taken part in Hertfordshire County Civil Defence exercises as well as local practice ‘call outs’. HEVEX Exercises at Oaklands College in 1988 and at Barnfield, Hatfield in 1992 were examples of busy all-day practical training with other agencies. Emergency Management sessions with Hertfordshire Emergency Planning Officers also took place.

Exercises at Luton Airport with Airport staff and all the statutory and voluntary agencies were held on alternate years from the early 2000s, either a Daylight or Night Exercise from 5.30pm – 11pm. Volunteers played one of two roles: as a passenger with casualty simulation wounds being applied prior to the start of the session if appropriate, or as a ‘meeter & greeter’ ie relative or friend anxiously waiting at the airport to collect an arriving passenger. The exercises were beneficial, giving an insight into the organisation during a possible emergency, and learning valuable lessons being at the receiving end of First Aid care or as a distraught relative.

Emergency Response and Support Given

1990 – 1991 1st Gulf War and “Operation Granby” – Welfare

Preparations for the Gulf War were coded “Operation Granby” and started in late 1990. A refresher Nursing Course was quickly arranged by Harpenden for all local volunteers in preparation for the proposed Post Acute Care Centre to be set up at Bassingbourn by Hertfordshire Red Cross for those now recovering from their injuries or illness. 13 of our members were rostered and on standby. Thankfully casualties were relatively few, and in the event the Care Centre was not needed. Additional Welfare assistance was required by the Red Cross and St John Service Hospital Welfare Service at Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital, Halton, Bucks. in anticipation of the admission of many patients. After training and briefings at the Hospital, 2 Harpenden members joined others from nearby Centres to help at Halton, while 3 were on standby. Members worked with the Red Cross and St John Welfare Officers, helping to man the Welfare Centre for those up-patients who wished to borrow a book, have a cup of tea and a chat, or collect occupational therapy materials. The library books were wheeled on a trolley round the few occupied wards, and the rooms and beds in the Red Cross Accommodation Block were prepared in readiness for any relatives of seriously ill patients. With few patients apart from the Maternity Ward, we attended for 9 sessions and were all stood down after 2 months.

11th September 2002 Twin Towers, New York – manning telephones

Four Harpenden volunteers manned telephones in London taking calls from those in UK who were seeking for news about relatives or friends living or working in New York. They provided any available information and gave emotional support.

11th December 2005 Buncefield explosion, Hemel Hempstead – Rest Centre

This was possibly the largest incident of its kind in peacetime Europe with 42 people injured in the blast and 2000 local residents evacuated. 280 residents lost their homes and were put up in a temporary Local Authority Rest Centre until they were rehoused. This was manned by Emergency Response volunteers and 2 Harpenden members gave service over several days providing emotional and practical support distributing new clothes, collecting replacement medication and providing advice about insurance. They were also a ‘listening ear’ which gave comfort to many people who were in shock and total disbelief at what had happened.

7th July 2005 London Bombings – Family Assistance Centre

Following the morning rush-hour bombings when 104 people were injured and 52 killed, three Harpenden volunteers helped man the Red Cross area on several days at the Family Assistance Centre set up at the RHS Hall in Vincent Square, London. This was open for 42 days in total and provided a peaceful atmosphere, plus individual areas where Red Cross and other agencies could speak to those who wanted information or advice. Some just needed to come and have ‘someone to talk to’. Much valued was a Red Cross Therapeutic Care member, working in a private area, who gave Neck and Shoulder Massage for those stressed. Red Cross also provided First Aid if needed. In addition, Harpenden First Aiders were on duty in The Mall in London, and Harpenden Medical Loan Depot had 12 wheelchairs on standby, although these were not needed.

December 2009 Caddington Gas and Electricity outage

Caddington was left without gas and electricity when water entered the gas mains after a water pipe burst. This resulted in 300 households having no heating, lighting or cooking facilities a few days before Christmas. One member from Harpenden and 5 from Bedfordshire Red Cross attended. They knocked on the doors of all the affected houses to check the residents and to offer any advice or assistance. A Rest Centre was set up in the village and 180 people were given warm shelter, hot food and drinks, plus information and advice. Torches and blankets were also available. For those who chose to remain in their own homes, a check was made that they had no health problems, that they had necessary medication, and heaters were given if requested. Transport was provided by Red Cross members who took those who needed provisional accommodation to hotels.


In 2017, four Harpenden members trained in this new category of service to help with a major incident or national emergency when the statutory services and their resources are overstretched. Ten competencies had to be completed, including ‘Protection of Vulnerable Adults’, ‘Child Protection’, ‘Providing Emotional Support’, ‘Coping with Personal Stress’, ‘Safer Handling’, ‘Introduction to major incidents’, ‘Working with other services’ as well as First Aid qualifications. Members were on general standby to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist in situations such as floods, fire or disasters. In 2013 members required ‘Disclosure and Barring’ clearance to work with vulnerable people and this was organised by County HQ. A volunteer gave assistance after a fire at Luton, but thankfully we were not called to any local major incident before we closed.


During the 1970s there had been a complete change from Hospital duties to care in the community.

  • Bathing of the elderly and disabled at the Day Centre, which started in 1976, continued with a regular team each Tuesday morning. It was a well-used service which carried on until 1995. Members also helped at the Darby & Joan Club, the Courage Club and Square Pegs meetings for many years until the Day Centre closed.
  • Nursing courses were held annually, lasting 12 weeks, and included regular, assessed practical work. They were well attended by the public who later said how helpful the sessions had been when looking after relatives at home. Courses continued until 1996 when nursing was no longer a Red Cross key service.
  • Blood Donor sessions at the Day Centre were held 8 times a year. Red Cross provided support with post donation supervision of the donors, and a cup of tea and biscuit before they went home. It was a popular weekend duty, often meeting our local friends attending, and were disappointed in 1996 when we were no longer required.

Youth and Juniors Group

was Cadet Unit 5050

1953 – 1997

The 1980s saw a change of name from Cadet Unit to a Youth Group within Harpenden Centre and was a 20 strong group of boys and girls aged 10 – 15 years. The uniform was modified with a scarlet neck tab replacing the black tie, and berets were no longer worn.

Their programme of courses continued to include First Aid, Nursing and Child Care plus Accident Prevention, Camp craft, Communications, Health Education, Home Mechanics and Rescue. The courses were practical and relevant. They had ‘outside’ evenings with walks, swimming, ice skating and outings to the Pantomime – on the way, much fun and companionship were certainly enjoyed by the dozen or so members. Fund raising for Red Cross projects overseas included raising money for a Red Cross Water Ambulance in Belize – river transport being the practical method of transporting casualties in the tropical forest areas. A Sponsored Walk along the River Lea raised money to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of British Red Cross. By 1997, the few members of the group transferred to St Albans Centre, and in 2001 all Youth Units were discontinued nationally by the British Red Cross.


later designated THERAPEUTIC CARE

Beauty Care by the British Red Cross was a continuation of the work started by Eve Gardiner, a beautician who pioneered the use of make-up to disguise scars. In 1937 when Max factor opened a Beauty Salon in Bond Street, London, she became his first make-up artist, devising new methods of make-up for actors in the cinema and television. She became so deft that Sir Harold Gillies, the plastic surgeon, used to send his patients to her for remedial camouflage make-up. When the Salon was closed during the war, she worked with Sir Archibald McIndoe and his Guinea Pig Club members and developed ways of obscuring even the severest scars. St Dunstans (now called Blind Veterans) also called on her to help blind women apply lipstick and make-up. Eve’s motto was always “Look good, feel better” and the Red Cross continued her skilled work in cosmetic camouflage and beauty care.

  • HAND CARE: This one-to-one service included gentle hand massage and nail care, giving clients a feeling of well being and confidence through touch and communication. From 1983, regular visits by 5 or 6 members were made to patients in Harpenden Memorial Hospital and to those in residential homes such as James Marshall House and Redclyffe. The service continued for about 20 years, and several hundred treatments were given each year by this much appreciated and friendly service.
  • THERAPEUTIC CARE: For people experiencing a crisis in their lives, this gentle hand, neck and shoulder massage helps relaxation, reducing stress and pain. The neck and shoulder massage is given through clothing, and was given at The Grove Hospice in St Albans for many years since 1983, and was available to both men and women.
  • COSMETIC CAMOUFLAGE: The Cosmetic Camouflage service was launched nationally by the British Red Cross in 1975. From 1986, our Harpenden volunteer worked at The Lister Hospital and St Albans City Hospital, advising about 50 clients a year on disguising their scars or skin blemishes. In 1996, one of our members was awarded the first Voluntary Service Medal to be given by Hertfordshire Red Cross purely for Therapeutic Beauty Care service – very well deserved for her dedication and skill.

Since 1998, the service was continued at St Albans City Hospital by a St Albans Red Cross member (who transferred to Harpenden Centre in 2006), and who continued this skilled work until the service was transferred to “Changing Faces” in November 2011.


The informal loan of equipment for home nursing was available from the First Aid Post during the war. Afterwards, some crutches, bedpans, urinals and a couple of wheelchairs were moved next door to the old Victoria Road School building (later the Further Education Centre, now Harpenden Academy) and stored in the tiny Red Cross cupboard half-way up the stairs to the old Headmaster’s study. The study was used as a Red Cross practical room for some years during the time when a downstairs old classroom was used for Red Cross courses and training on one evening a week. When stocks of equipment increased, everything was moved to the homes of two members in Stewart Road, and loans were made from there for the next few years. In 1975, what had been a large classroom in the old British School in Park Hall, was made available to Red Cross and a well organised Medical Loan depot was set up there (now the modern kitchen area). It provided a light, airy room, and the building was easily accessible, with parking outside. The equipment became the responsibility of the British Red Cross, added to with donations from the public. The well-used service opened regularly on 2 mornings, 1 afternoon and one early evening a week with around 14 members on the rota. After Park Hall was acquired from St Albans District Council in 1994, Harpenden Town Council undertook a major refurbishment of the site, including adding a new Town Hall at the rear and a new extension at the side where the old wooden Pensioners’ Workshop had stood. During this time we were allowed to use accommodation at The BUPA Hospital in Ambrose Lane, Harpenden, for nine months. We transferred all the equipment to a room on the ground floor near the entrance, and with washing facilities and Hospital parking available, the system worked well and was much appreciated. We were delighted when we were able to move in to our brand new depot in the light and airy new extension at Park Hall. It had running water with a large sink for cleaning equipment, and there was a toilet next door. With new metal shelving, an increased range of new equipment from Hertfordshire Red Cross, a large desk and a store cupboard for paperwork etc, we were able to provide a continuing reliable service. Equipment was lent for as long as needed, but the emphasis was on short term loan, and there was a steady turnover particularly of the 50 wheelchairs and 118 commodes on the books, and about 500 items per year were borrowed.

Over the years our equipment has travelled to many exciting, and sometimes sad, places. Our wheelchairs have been to: Plymouth to see a grandson set off on the Global Challenge, the Chelsea Flower Show, The Ritz Hotel for a 90th birthday party, The London Eye, The Kirov Ballet (when we also lent the leg extension required for the wheelchair, and fortunately a box had been booked); abroad on Jumbulance trips to Austria and to Bruges, and to the Normandy Beaches for a Remembrance Parade. Wheelchairs have been needed for numerous weddings, funerals and Court appearances.

Loans Centralized

With the centralization of this Red Cross service to Harlow in 2007, the depot had to be closed after almost 70 years of local service. A farewell party was held at the Day Centre in May attended by the Mayor, and by the President of Hertfordshire Red Cross, together with 19 Medical Loan members over the years, and uniformed members. The depot finally closed on 8th June 2007, all the equipment and furnishings loaded on to a lorry to be returned to County. From 2011, Medical Loan was renamed the Community Equipment Service.

Meals on Wheels

From the small start of Red Cross delivering about 28 meals a week in 1948, demand for the service steadily grew. It was at its greatest in the late 1980s and early1990s with a 5 day service taking round 100 meals on some days – the maximum possible in practice. During 1990, over 22,000 meals were delivered by our teams, with 166 volunteers putting in over 5,000 hours of voluntary service – indeed ‘a daily miracle’. The meals continued to be cooked and packed at Harpenden Day Centre and our white van garaged there. Instead of using the heavy Hotlock boxes heated by charcoal, the meals were later carried in lighter insulated plastic boxes. Health and Safety Regulations were introduced in 1993 requiring changes: a limited number of volunteers were allowed in the kitchen to pack the boxes, overalls were to be worn, and new hand washing facilities installed. Temperature testing of sample meals with a probe thermometer was started, and records kept for inspection.

After 13 years regular use, the current van was sold. This was replaced in 1997 with a new Ford Escort 1.8 diesel van purchased for £11,400 ‘on the road’. All the money was raised locally by Red Cross members or with generous donations from local Societies, Clubs, Trusts, and grants from the Town and District Councils, showing how highly our service was valued.

Social Services take over

In March 2009, Social Services replaced the Red Cross service with one which supplied frozen meals, microwaved just before delivery to the house, and operating on 7 days a week. This brought to an end 61 years of continual service by this Red Cross group, and the retirement of its 158 volunteers. 115 members attended a final party when 42 awards were made to long serving members, and all looked back on the fun, friendships and achievements of this remarkable local voluntary service. Our van eventually went on to be used by the Herts/Beds/Essex Red Cross Community Equipment Service based at the main warehouse at Harlow, Essex.

Transport and Escort

For many years, Harpenden Red Cross members took those needing particular treatments or investigations to hospitals or to Convalescent Homes outside the local area, often with a trained escort. Requests had sometimes been made at the Medical Loan Depot or via the Detachment, but from 1977 a distinct group was formed. This was run by a small, dedicated group of 3 or 4 drivers who undertook around 100 trips a year covering anything from 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Journeys were made to several London Hospitals, and to Addenbrookes, Mount Vernon, Stoke Mandeville and Harefield Hospitals. Another request was for transport to a Holiday Home in Clacton. For a series of trips to Hemel Hempstead Hospital, the time of arrival was critical. For the ultraviolet light treatment to the skin of a lady’s foot to be effective it had to be given exactly 2 hours after she took her medication at 7.30 am. Public transport was unreliable about 9 am so the Red Cross transport was invaluable. The group closed in 2009 as Beds/Herts/Essex Red Cross was supplying a ‘Home from Hospital’ Service and Harpenden Helping Hand also provided a local service for varying needs.

Fund Raising

Red Cross Week

Henri Dunant, founder of the Red Cross Movement, was inspired by the work of Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, and Florence was associated with the British Red Cross from its inception. Henri Dunant therefore decided that Red Cross Week should be the week which included 8th May – both her birthday and his.

Red Cross Week has always been the main focus of our fund raising to support our range of services locally, nationally and internationally. Door to door, street and supermarket collections were made for many years, plus collecting in the High Street on the Saturday, and an early morning collection at Harpenden Railway Station as the commuters went to work. A small, enthusiastic group in Kimpton ran a Plant Sale each year in aid of Red Cross, and Red Cross received £440 from Harpenden Waitrose Supermarket green token collection in 1994. In the 1990s and 2000s, members usually raised £3,000 – 4,000 annually during Red Cross Week.

Hertfordshire Open Garden

Serving refreshments at Hertfordshire Open Gardens in the summer in aid of Red Cross was always busy and great fun.

Other Events

Other fund raising events in aid of Red Cross projects were enjoyed such as a sponsored walk by the River Lea, and another from Broxbourne to Hertford during the 125th anniversary of British Red Cross in 1995. Income from our local First Aid training courses and duties at events was paid to County HQ who then supplied the First Aid equipment we used during duties and supported our ongoing annual volunteer training. Some of the equipment provided directly to our local Centre through the generosity of organisations and local people, has been our First Aid caravan (second hand)

Funds were used for:

  • Waterproof jackets for First Aid duties
  • Resuscitation manikins: adult, child and baby
  • Training defibrillator
  • Laptop computer, projector & screen for training
  • Full size plastic skeleton
  • 3 new Meals on Wheels vans over the years
  • Wheelchairs, commodes & other equipment for Medical Loan8.

We had lots of fun too

Volunteers have been invited to three Buckingham Palace Garden Parties over the years, celebrating British Red Cross milestone years. Other Garden Parties at North Mymms Park, Galas, visits to the House of Commons, and taking part in the Lord Mayor of London’s Parade have been enjoyed.

Centenary Celebrations at Cosne sur Loire

Memorable was a four day visit to Cosne sur Loire, Harpenden’s French Twin Town, to join their centenary celebrations. It was 4 days of laughter working with our French colleagues and meeting Red Cross members from Bad Ems, Cosne’s German Twin Town. After the morning church service, celebration lunch and march through the town all assembled in the Town Square. Here, Harpenden Red Cross Centre Organiser gave a speech in French describing the activities of Harpenden Red Cross and presented a British Red Cross shield to Cosne to mark the occasion. In turn, Cosne presented Harpenden Red Cross with a local, hand-painted sweet dish which is now displayed at Harpenden Town Hall.

Centre Parties

 Whether self-catering in a member’s house and garden or at a local pub, any excuse for a party was used to have a Group meal each year. With partners also invited, there was always plenty of chatter and laughter, and members’ milestone events were often celebrated.

2013 Our 75th Anniversary We returned to our roots for a 75th Birthday exhibition in Park Hall on 1st June. Displays and memorabilia on all aspects of our work over the years filled the hall where the Detachment had held its first training courses in First Aid, Home Nursing and Anti Gas in 1938. The exhibition was attended by our Ops Director Herts/Beds/Essex, members of Harpenden Local History Society (who kindly let us use their monthly exhibition slot there) and local residents.

Closure of Harpenden Red Cross in 2018

There was a major change of emphasis in the local work of British Red Cross in 2018. The 10 remaining uniformed members of Harpenden Red Cross were invited to Red Cross HQ in Hertford in September 2018 and heard that Centres without their own buildings would be closed. In addition, no Event First Aid duties were to be undertaken by the Red Cross in future, and the St John Ambulance Brigade would now cover these. Members therefore had to choose their main field of volunteering, and move to another Centre, possibly in another County.

Red Cross service therefore changed to meet 3 issues:

  1.  Running First Aid training courses required for organisations supporting vulnerable people or     special groups such as sport, work: one member transferred to Hemel Hempstead Centre and one member transferred to Cambridge Centre
  2. Community First Responders. This new category of Red Cross membership was formed in partnership with other national agencies working in Hertfordshire, such as Age UK. Volunteers provided a free service supporting people at home by picking up prescriptions and shopping, providing transport for essential journeys, arranging short term loan of a wheelchair or toilet aids, and providing companionship. No Harpenden member joined the scheme.
  3. Supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers, providing clothes, travel vouchers, food vouchers, blankets and toiletries to those who attended a Red Cross Centre:

Two members transferred to Luton Centre. These former Harpenden members who are still working with the Red Cross, will continue their service in these areas with the same dedication which Harpenden volunteers have shown over the past 80 years. The remaining members decided to retire, some after 40 or 50 years of service with the Red Cross.


Over the years, Harpenden volunteers have been given many awards for Red Cross service, and the medals and badges worn with pride on appropriate occasions:

  • Harpenden Town Council Medal of Merit x 3
  • Voluntary Medical Service Medal x 12
  • Badge of Honour for Devoted Service x 7
  • Certificate for Meritorious Service x1
  • Certificate for Dedicated Service x 1
  • Certificate of Commendation x 2

Other posts with information about Harpenden Red Cross:

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